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Music in the grades has probably fulfilled its part in this development somewhat more efficiently than music in the high schools. Failure to bring the graduates of the public schools into sympathetic relation with the mature musical intelligence and interests of their various communities is not due so much to shortcomings in the work of the grades (though there are, of course, some such shortcomings in many places) as it is to neglect or sad misdirection of the work in high schools.
The late Mr. W. S. B. Mathews distinguished three appeals that music makes: The first to the ear, as “purified crystallized sound”a sensuous beauty which every musician demands always; the second an appeal to the mind, depending upon memory, attention, perception of the relation of part to part, as balanced and beautiful tonal discourse; the third the appeal to the soul, as expressing mood, state of feeling, emotion.
Children in the grades are taught to value beauty of tone and to secure it in their singing, both for the sake of their musical taste and for correct use of their own voices. Their short songs should have grace of melody and simple perfection of form, revealing grace and clarity of musical thinking; but these qualities are desirable as musical experience and are not consciously analyzed and consciously valued. The songs used also have mood or at least color, but the moods are, of course, childlike and are not the moods which the music of the masters expresses. These must remain incomprehensible until the individual approaches the larger experiences of life. Technically the pupil learns, by the end of the eighth year, almost all elementary theory, and to sing at sight fluently and in parts simple hymn tunes, and to sing with enjoyment, after some practice, a number of the easier choruses from operas and oratorios, as well as some comparatively elaborate part songs.
One point should not be overlooked—the pupil's line of approach to music has been, and in public schools must be, up to this time, purely that of the song. Dr. W. G. Chambers, in a most valuable essay entitled “Modern Psychology and Music Study," has pointed out what an unfortunate foundation this is, if not broadened, upon which to base an understanding of the great instrumental works which crown the heights of musical expression. But in truth no more than we have outlined can be normally accomplished in the eight grades. The musical forms used are, until the end of this period, too simple to present any elaborate thematic development, and the amount of technical proficiency to be gained is too great to leave time for conscious consideration of larger art values, even in phases of this investigation which might be deemed appropriate to the child below the age of adolescence.
What practical and desirable developments then remain for the high school? A complete and correct answer to this question would mean a fulfillment of the task to which your committee is addressed. Before entering upon such answer it is well to note what often does follow. In many high schools this is nothing but a continued exercise, slightly extended, of the degree of power gained by the pupil in the eight grades below the high school. A graduation exercise in music might often appropriately mark the conclusion of the eighth year in school, for here, in many cases, ends the student's progress in musical knowledge and understanding.
If we would have an adult public interested in and appreciative of the great music of the masters, we must have general instruction in advanced phases of musical study. This instruction is appropriate and practicable in high schools, and to them properly belongs the task of articulating the music in the grades with the enlightened musical understanding and interest of the community.
In the several branches of musical study recommended in the following paragraphs it is assumed by the committee that this endnamely, bringing the student into knowledge and understanding of the great music of the world—will be kept persistently in view. The classes of material recommended are chosen with relation to their efficiency in attaining this end and methods of administration that will operate toward securing it are suggested.
In choosing material for ensemble singing it should not be forgotten that music, while it may ally itself with sentiments of religion, patriotism, love of home, and so forth, and while it should never ally itself with less worthy associations, is yet not to be valued upon the nature of such alliance. For music is essentially tone and tonal discourse and is beautiful as music in proportion to the beauty of tone, the beauty of the tonal procedure, and the beauty and nobility of mood out of which it sprang. Music, in short, need express musical thought only. Until this is admitted, understanding of musical beauty as a thing in itself can not be undertaken. Therefore, no commonplace tune, badly harmonized, should be admitted because the text associated with it means well. At least must this be true for all new music. Certain old melodies, quite unregarded as music either originally or now, but saved from extinction in the first instance by alliance with a text of value, and at present by tradition and many hallowed associations—these should be preserved so long as their appeal remains and while their use is not wholly perfunctory. We admit these because we are human beings, not because we are musical. But since the persons who respond to general human
sentiments are more numerous than those who respond to these same sentiments plus a response to purely musical beauties, there has been, and is, danger that the power to awaken such general humanistic response should be regarded as the one necessary quality in a song, and our chorus activities are therefore vitiated by the use of a number of songs no one of which would be regarded by musicians as belonging to the realm of music at all, and no one of which is in the same idiom as that music which all concede it is the purpose of a musical education to lead the student to love and enjoy.
While ensemble singing must in the nature of the case be the most general and basic music activity in a public-school system, it must be admitted that wise administration in this work is more necessary than in any other branch of musical study recommended if breadth of musical interest and understanding on the part of the students is to be the result. It can not be gainsaid that a pupil may sing during his entire high-school term the sort of songs that are sung in many high schools, study them in the manner in which they are studied in these schools, and come forth at the end of the time as remote from understanding and enjoyment of a Beethoven symphony or sonata as he would have been had he lacked such practice. This is not to be understood as meaning that he does not derive many other sorts of benefit from the practice. It does mean, however, that his participation as an adult in the progressive musical activities of his community is not made certain by the course of instruction which he has undergone. Not only does the comparative emphasis usually given the subject and text divert attention from purely musical values, but the physical exhilaration of singing may readily be mistaken for general musical enjoyment. Further, the songs may be selected largely because of their appropriateness to certain occasions, such as class days, field days, arbor day, patriotic festivals, etc., and in such case musical merit usually has to be sacrificed or can not be a prime factor in the choice of songs.
After material which has specific musical merit is chosen, its appropriateness to the voices and capacities of the adolescent singers must be considered, and a method of presentation must be found that will lead to wider musical interest and understanding. As any and all of the four years in high school are recommended for chorus practice, and as such principles of selection of music and presentation vary for the different years, the remaining recommendations are treated under two heads.
CHORUS PRACTICE IN FIRST AND SECOND YEARS. In interest and articulation with the earlier experience of the pupils, chorus practice appeals especially to first and second year students; but in respect to voices, these two years are for many pupils quite unfortunate, and a wise selection of musical material within a limited range is therefore necessary, as well as a careful and frequently repeated examination of each individual voice and a judicious assignment of each pupil to his appropriate vocal part. Mere efficient conquering of one song after another, with no thought for comparative musical merit, should not constitute the practice. Correct use of the voice and intelligent phrasing and interpretation of music in general should be the rule. Further, if the students are not yet proficient in sight singing and thoroughly well informed in elementary theory, these should be taught in connection with this chorus work. If, however, high-school standards which imply such abilities have been reached, the general incidental study should take the line of musical appreciation. Structural features of the songs should be pointed out and some knowledge of musical form should be gained. Motivation, the phrase, sequences should be studied. Some knowledge of the composers should be gained and the use of selections from operas, oratorios, or cantatas should be made the occasion for some study of these forms. Every effort should be made to broaden the student's general musical horizon through the medium of his interest and participation in chorus work.
CHORUS PRACTICE IN THIRD ANI) FOURTH YEARS.
The voices being more mature, the collateral lines of study should be different. Continuation of the incidental musical appreciation work recommended in connection with first and second year chorus practice is still advised. An invaluable activity further is the learning and performing of some suitable standard choral work every semester by the school chorus, assisted by excellent soloists and accompanied by a large orchestra. No surer means can be found to place the student in sympathetic relation to the advanced musical interests in his community.
The work recommended along lines of musical appreciation, in connection with chorus practice, was incidental, the intention being to prevent an entirely undiscriminating and unappreciative attitude toward music in its “ absolute” phases. Such study could not be thorough were it desired to make it so, for the forms presented would be in the main comparatively short, would all be vocal, and would present the easier works of a limited number of composers only, and these probably in vitally altered transcriptions and arrangements. A strong course of study of great musical literature should therefore be offered. This is continually growing more practicable because of improvements in and the increasing use of mechanical instruments for reproducing such music, as, for instance, the player piano, the talking machine, and the player organ. With the help of any or all of these and the assistance of local musicians, vocal and instrumental, in addition to what the class and the teacher can provide, working as a chorus and also in solo capacities, a course such as that outlined in the following paragraphs can be presented more or less exhaustively and with results in the education of the students that are of inestimable value.
Musical appreciation as a high-school study is particularly appropriate for third and fourth year students, as the mature quality of thought and feeling with which great music is invested is largely incomprehensible prior to these years to any but the exceptional boy or girl. A musical experience and a technical foundation that can be gained only in the first two years are also necessary; and two years of chorus practice, such as was outlined, or two years of harmony or of orchestra ensemble are therefore recommended prior to undertaking this course. This recommendation is made notwithstanding the fact that classes of first and second year students in this branch have been known to members of the committee to make excellent progress.
The course in musical appreciation includes study of musical history, form, biography of musicians and ästhetics of music, but is not specifically any one of these. The course is best planned, therefore, through the selection of a large number of compositions which are to constitute the subject matter. These should be chosen on the following bases: (1) They should represent a large number of master composers, ancient and modern, in so far as the works of these masters engage the attention of the world to-day; (2) they should represent all important media of expression, as piano, orchestra, chorus, solo voice, solo instruments, chamber music ensembles, etc.; (3) they should represent all varieties of form and all larger forms, as the song forms, sonata form, rondo, etc., and the opera, oratorio, cantata, mass, etc.; (4) as representing either a composer or a form or style, they should be characteristic of that composer's form or style at his or its best and most individual moments.
The compositions chosen are to be heard and studied repeatedly, individually, as representative, in the ways specified, and comparatively. They are furthermore to be studied in relation to musical æsthetics, with regard to the nature and validity of the musical ideas upon which they rest and the degree of success attained in reaching these ideals. The lecture method with library reference is recommended, as textbooks of the exact kind needed are hardly to be found, if at all. Where possible, reported concert attendance should be a feature of the work.